Riverside Astronomical Society—Outreach, star parties, dark sky site, and you!

RAS Star Party

Alternate Location: Mt. Laguna


Date: Not currently scheduled
Location: Meadow Loop of the Laguna Campground
Location Details: 32° 53' 18.74" N, 116° 27' 02.26" W | Elevation: 5,515 feet | Map
Things to do: Observe, image, hike, bike, mingle, relax


The Milky Way from the RAS's Mt. Laguna star party

The star party at Mt. Laguna is an annual (kind of) early summer event for the RAS. Some years, the club may opt to have the June star party at Grandview Campground in the White Mountains instead. It's always a fun event for those who attend.

This location in the mountains east of San Diego has some of the darkest skies in southern California. It's a great location for viewing and imaging objects in the southern portion of the sky since those objects are a little higher in the sky than we're used to and darkness to the south is very good.

This star party differs from our typical star parties at GMARS in a few important ways:

  • This star party typically begins on Thursday, instead of the usual Friday for GMARS star parties.
  • The Star-B-Q is more of a potluck than our usual GMARS Star-B-Q. That means you should bring your own protein dish for the grill as well as an appetizer, sidedish, or dessert to share. (There is a small store about two miles away, and Julian is about a 30-minute drive.)
  • Most importantly, this star party is held in the Cleveland National Forest, which means there's a fee involved and you may have to do a little more planning.

One way it doesn't differ is that you'll be surrounded by friendly and helpful RAS members.

The RAS reserves all of the campsites in the Meadow Loop area of the Laguna-Prado campground. Let the star party director know if you want one of the spots the club has reserved. Do so early because the sites go quickly.

If all of the spots that the RAS reserves fill up, there are a few options:

  • Reserve your own camping spot in the adjacent Shady Loop area of the campground through Recreation.gov. The Shady Loop Campground has too many trees for telescopic stargazing, but you can set up your scope with the rest of the club in the Meadow Loop, and walk the short distance to your campsite.

  • Just show up and find a campsite in any of the other loops. Only about three dozen of the nearly 200 campsites in Mt. Laguna are reservable. The rest are available on a walk-in basis. If you are there on Thursday, you should have no trouble finding a site. However, if you arrive later than Thursday, it may be difficult to find a spot as weekends in June/July fill up quickly at Mt. Laguna. If you know you will be arriving Friday, you can try to have a club member reserve a spot for you (he or she will have to park a car there and pay the camping fee). Any such arrangements are at the discretion of the parties involved and not a concern of the RAS.

  • Just show up and share one of the sites the club has already reserved. Each site allows two vehicles, and can have more than one tent. To prevent freeloading, it is expected that you get permission from the current occupant of the site and contribute to the reservation fee. This option is not advisable for those with a trailer or other RV, but it should work fine for those in a car who will be tent camping.

Space for tent camping is limited but shouldn't be a problem. You may have to park your vehicle away from your tent in some circumstances.

Some additional special notes:

  • The club reserves several campsites for Friday-Saturday, and a few for Thursday-Saturday. If your space is a Friday-Saturday, and you plan to be there Thursday, you can simply hope it's not occupied Thursday night, or go to Recreation.gov and reserve Thursday night yourself—and pay for the extra reservation fee. Alternatively, you can arrive Thursday, and if your Friday site is already occupied, move to another unoccupied site for the night.

  • The weather can vary... wildly. Come prepared for everything from thunderstorms to dew to clear, hot, and dry conditions.

  • Mountain biking is very popular at Mt. Laguna. Bring your bike!

  • Our Mt. Laguna Star Party runs from Thursday through Sunday, but feel free to arrive for just one night or for just the Saturday afternoon/evening events. If you're not staying the night you will not need to pay for a campsite. However, keep the limited parking situation in mind. You will not be able to park near the telescope meadow.

  • The nearby town of Julian has a lot of great pie shops. However, the potluck doesn't work very well if everyone brings pie. Please vary your sidedish and dessert options!